Compassionate Kids

I was reading a blog post today on VickiesIckies (a great blog by the way) about how some parents bring cupcakes to school for birthday celebrations which the kids with food allergies cannot eat leaving them excluded from the celebration.  Sometimes the treat is brought at the last minute or without being the teacher’s prior knowledge leaving the parent of the allergic child little or no time to bring a substitute treat.   The school’s answer was, “the allergic child needs to learn to deal with it”.   I starting thinking about how amazing it has been in our experience (and perhaps in yours too) that kids are often much more compassionate than adults about another child’s food allergy.

For example, my daughter has a friend who became upset with her father (a good friend by the way who shared this story with us) for eating peanuts in the car because she was worried that our daughter might accidentally be exposed to the peanuts during a carpool sometime in the future.  The 8-year old girl became so insistent that her father eventually pulled over and threw away his peanuts.  When our child was much younger her preschool teacher once told me that from time to time, parents would send in peanut butter into their nut free classroom and the children would immediately take the “offending item” directly from their lunchboxes to the teacher saying, “I can’t have this here”.  These children were three!  We have heard parents tell us that their kids did not want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch because they would be playing with our kids later in the day.  Maybe we are just fortunate that we have sweet friends, but I think there is something more to it than that.

I think kids are generally concerned about their food allergic friends because they love them and don’t want them to be hurt.  Avoiding a particular food around their food allergic friend is their way of showing them that they love them.  Parents sometimes, myself included, often look for the most convenient course of action. I will say, we are very blessed to have many adult friends that frequently bend over backwards and go far beyond the call of duty to accommodate our kids’ food allergies at their parties, for soccer snacks, etc.  But, we are wondering if you have had the same experience with kids showing great compassion as it relates to your child’s food allergy?

Desserts at Restaurants

Next time you eat out at a restaurant consider dessert.  I know what you’re thinking, “Are you crazy? Everything either has nuts or is cross-contaminated with nuts.”  For years we though the same thing, until we asked about it.  Most restaurants now are used to customers asking allergy specific questions.  Many of these have a book that lists every menu item and what common allergens the food contains or may contain.

Our kids are so used to not being able to eat some foods because they contain or may contain peanuts or tree nuts so when we find something that they can have a restaurant, it is an extra special treat for them.  If the restaurant doesn’t, we shrug and say, “Oh well, we tried.  We’ll just eat dessert at home.”  Next time you go out to eat, ask the server or manager.  You might find out you have more options than you realize.  Some restaurants we’ve been to that have allergen books are: Chili’s, Red Robin and Panera Bread.  Do you know of any other restaurants that have an allergen book or list?  Share it with us in the comments!

Duncan Hines and Food Allergies

In our Birthday Parties and Allergies posting, a reader left a comment stating that they make a quick cake using Duncan Hines, Coke and a microwave.  I thought it was a great alternative to a traditional cake.  Still want to try it though.  Nevertheless, I posted this on twitter and the feedback was quick and enlightening.

Several of our twitter followers stated that they do not consider Duncan Hines safe.  Calls from these followers to Duncan Hines regarding cross contamination were met with resistance and a general unhelpful attitude.  One even has a blog post about it.

I relayed this story to my wife and she said to me, “Why do you think we only buy Betty Crocker?”  Obviously, she has had the same experience.  That being said, I think the idea of cake mix (Betty Crocker please), coke and a microwave is worth a try.

Safe Food List – Candy

Our newest list, Candy, is now posted on our Safe Food List Page.  When we compiled this list for Camp Riverview for Girls.  I was really surprised at the variety of options available and it is a great list to give to friends and family for Halloween candy ideas.

We posted a link on Twitter to the Tootsie Company’s allergy statement where they state all of their products are peanut, tree nut and gluten free.  What a great thing to remember when buying candy and their products extend beyond Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops.

Remember this list is only a guide and that you must read the labels of everything you buy.  Our hope is that the list gives you some additional options to consider.  Did you find anything on the list that surprised you?  Are there any we missed?

Birthday Parties and Allergies

Birthday Parties.  These are the immediate thoughts of a parent with a peanut and tree nut allergic child.  What kind of cake will there be?  Who made it?  Will there be candy?  Ice cream?  What brands?  What if it is not safe for my child?  Will she feel embarrassed if she can’t have the cake and ice cream while everyone else is eating it?

These are the questions (and others) that run through every allergic child’s parent.  Our standard solution for years was that we would bring a cupcake that we made for our child to eat at the party while everyone ate the birthday cake.  There were several problems with this alternative for us.

First, it is hard to make just one cupcake.  (We never did.)  Second, if we made a dozen cupcakes what did we do with the rest?  (We sometimes froze them for future parties.)  Third, this alternative might help with the embarrassment factor when the child is young but when the child is older and she sees the pretty decorated Barbie or princess cake with all of the fancy icing, her defrosted cupcake is not so appealing.

We decided in the last couple of years to have a long discussion with our local grocery store bakery.  Publix is a grocery store chain located primarily in the southeastern United States.  All of the cakes that they produce have a label that has the normal statement regarding peanuts and tree nuts – made in a facility with peanuts and nuts, etc.  These were computer-generated labels that also contain the price, ingredients, etc.  A scan of the ingredients revealed nothing offensive.

A long discussion with the Publix Store manager (who coincidentally has a child with a peanut allergy) about their baking process and ingredients was very enlightening.  The main concern for us related to cross contamination.  Specifically, were the mixing bowls, cake pans, etc washed and sanitized after a peanut or tree nut item had been made?

The store manager told us that all of the batter for the cupcakes and cakes were made at the Publix central bakery in Jacksonville, FL but were baked and decorated at the individual store.  The specific store bakery does make items that contain nuts; however, the cooking utensils are cleaned and sanitized after each item is made.  In other words, they do not make a carrot cake in a pan and then immediately make a birthday cake in the same pan.  There is an intermediate step where they clean and sanitize the pan in between each cake being made.  We confirm this process every few months with the store.

For us, this information alleviated our concerns and opened up a whole new way of living for us.  Our friends know that if they get a cake at Publix (in our city it is the main store where cakes are purchased) that our child will be able to eat and enjoy it with the rest of the kids.  At the same time, our child feels normal.  After many birthday parties and many Publix cakes, we have never had a problem.  Do we always have Benadryl and Epipens with us?  Absolutely.  The take away here should not be that the Publix Bakery is completely safe.  It should be that some simple investigation could open up a new safe option for you and return something normal to your life.  Have you had any similar experiences?  Leave us a comment!